Kinshasa/Geneva 9 July 2013 – Two years after the enactment of the law criminalizing torture, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) welcomes progress in the fight against this scourge and the first convictions of state agents who have practiced or encouraged the use of torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Since the enactment of the law on the criminalization of torture on 9 July 2011, a law which legally defines and criminalizes this crime for the first time in the history of the country, at least five soldiers of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), five agents of the Congolese National Police, one agent of the national intelligence service and one administrative official have been convicted for practicing and/or encouraging the use of torture. Sentences which ranged from six months to life imprisonment were imposed by courts in Equateur, Bas Congo, Kasai Occidental, Katanga, Maniema and Orientale provinces.
Since 2012, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights has engaged in a series of activities across the country to sensitize defense and security forces, judicial authorities and civil society actors on the content of the law and to ensure its effective implementation.
The UNJHRO welcomes the direct involvement of government officials in the implementation of the law and efforts made by the government to fight against the impunity of state agents practicing torture.
Aware of the importance of this process of engagement by the government, the UNJHRO has spared no effort to support investigation missions conducted by judicial authorities, as well as the holding of mobile courts, some of which have resulted in the conviction of perpetrators of torture. The UNJHRO has also organized several outreach activities with concerned actors on the content of the law.
On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, in its different communications the UNJHRO and its partners in government institutions and civil society jointly recognized the progress that has been made over the last two years, but also noted that a significant amount of work remains to be done to better protect people who have been deprived of their liberty.
"I am pleased with the considerable progress which has been accomplished by the government in order to ensure conformity with national law and international standards and to put an end to the cycle of impunity which prevails for acts of torture", said Juan E. Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. "International human rights law implies an absolute and non-derogable ban on the use of torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", he added. He also called on the government "to make sure that every allegation of torture or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is investigated by law enforcement officers and that those responsible are held accountable for their acts".
The UNJHRO continues to register cases of torture in all provinces in the country through its monitoring and investigation activities. Despite considerable progress made since the enactment of the law criminalizing torture, the UNJHRO underlines that important challenges remain before its eradication.
Investigations into acts of torture and effective prosecutions of perpetrators by Congolese judicial authorities should dissuade potential perpetrators from committing extremely grave cases of torture. In this respect, the UNJHRO continues to support the authorities in all actions aimed at prosecuting presumed perpetrators of torture, acts for which they must answer before the law.
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